PAGE TOP

Features

Toriyama Exhibition Essays


In the early-1990’s, Akira Toriyama reached a status that few mangaka can dream of: his artwork was put on display in exhibits at numerous art museums across Japan. Back then, this was only the second time in history that a mangaka had achieved this level of notoriety, the first being Osamu Tezuka, most well-known for creating the manga Astro Boy. Overall, Toriyama had two main exhibits: one that traveled around the country in 1993 through 1994 and another in 1995. At each exhibit you could pick up a catalog book to be used as a reference to Toriyama’s artwork as you toured the exhibit. They contained all of the artwork, where they were originally published, and any other pieces of information one might find interesting.

These essays were included in the second (1995) Akira Toriyama Exhibition book, the book produced to go along with the 1995 Japanese museum exhibit. This book contained all the pieces of Toriyama’s artwork that were featured in the exhibit, as well as these essays from various people which were displayed along with the art. The book provides quality English translations of these essays, so we have simply typed them up as they appear in the book (meaning the spellings for certain character names may not be consistent with what we use elsewhere on the site).

The Collected Works of Toriyama – Taking the Royal Road

by Nobuhiko Horie; editor-in-chief, Weekly Shōnen Jump

It’s hard to believe it now, but Toriyama, in his early days, produced an enormous number of works which were universally rejected. Toriyama’s genius didn’t develop overnight; his debut as a serial artist took years of constant effort and fortitude in the face of defeat.

Perhaps because he began his career as a designer, Toriyama’s early drawings had some of the characteristic flavor of design illustrations. Rigidly stylized, they seemed inappropriate for manga. The early works lacked strong characterization as well; the focus was mainly on the settings. Wonder Island, one of his first science fiction manga, shows both these weaknesses. They are hinted at by the titles as well.

Tomato, Girl Detective, a short, complete work, marked a turning point. Toriyama took a new and different approach, using the name of its main character, Akai Tomato (red tomato) in the title, and turning his fertile imagination to establishing the humorous character of the young “gal” detective. From this point on, Toriyama’s work grew steadily more popular.

In Tomato, we can see the “seeds” of Arale in Dr. Slump. From the title of this work, it is obvious that Toriyama originally intended to make Senbe Norimaki the main character of the series. But once Senbe invented the young female android Arale, babyish in appearance yet strong enough to break the world in two with one blow, the focus shifted; Toriyama’s unique style of drawing, which once seemed inappropriate for manga, proved to be perfect for presenting the antics of this amazing character.

A manga artist, publishing a serial in a weekly magazine, is like a pop singer giving a live concert. The audience reacts to his singing, and the singer reacts to the audience. A certain magical power comes into play, beyond the control of either party. It wasn’t long before Arale took the role of the main character from Senbe.

In a sense, perhaps, all the successful manga of the past were created by both the manga artists and their readers, and that is why a popular work always reflects the society of its day.

The publication of Dragon Ball, immediately after Dr. Slump, was truly a great achievement for two reasons. First, it is not easy for any manga artist to produce two super-successful serials in a row. Second, Dragon Ball met the fans’ demand for a new type of action manga – one that focused on martial-arts fighting.

Hokuto no Ken, another popular martial-arts manga which was being serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump concurrently with Dragon Ball, uses a realistic “still-picture” technique to create appeal. Its main character is presented as a static personality somewhat resembling the martial artist Bruce Lee.

In contrast, Dragon Ball effectively uses multiple streamlines to express speed and action, and many three-dimensional composition techniques to express the objects and characters hurtling through the air. The merry characters of Dragon Ball are reminiscent of Jackie Chan, who was gaining popularity at the time. I’ve heard that Toriyama watched Jackie’s movies on video many times, thoroughly studying the way the actor moved.

A work that expresses the mood of the times alone cannot be successful. It must have a certain philosophy and express humanity. Toriyama’s works do, and that is much of their appeal.

All young boys believe in their futures, and they value friendships with others. Friendship is a major theme in their lives. They endeavor to realize their hopes and dreams, and sympathize with those who do the same.

In his works, Toriyama portrays exactly what young boys desire in a straightforward manner. He doesn’t preach, as publications directed toward young readers sometimes do. This must be a result of his own philosophy of humanity, and it’s one that’s widely accepted by young manga readers.

His illustration-like drawings, which once seemed disadvantageous, have proved to be just the opposite, helping his work spread to the media of animation, TV games, and character-based products. T-shirts printed with his characters are quite popular – adults and children alike find them fun to wear. And his presentation of fast-moving, three-dimensional action has translated well into the media of animation and TV games. The multimedia development of his work has enormously increased the number and range of Toriyama’s fans; they include both males and females over a wide range of ages.

And all of this, in the old media and the new, would never have been possible without Toriyama’s fortitude in the face of rejection in his early days as a manga artist. His bravery and enthusiasm have been an inspiration to many just setting out on their own careers in the creative arts, and will continue to be so for decades to come.

Absolute Genius

by Shigesato Itoi; copywriter and creator of the “Mother/Earthbound” video games

There is an abstract style of painting, but the concept of “abstract” is ambiguous, difficult to define. The authoritative Kojien Dictionary spends 23 lines attempting to do so, even though it’s famous for its concise explanations. And if the vaunted Kojien cannot do it concisely, what chance do I have?

“Representational” is much easier to deal with. The Kojien gets through it in just two and a half lines, and everybody knows that it’s the opposite of “abstract”. Even I can more or less define it in a few simple words as “just like something looks”.

In manga, in my opinion, the style of expression is much closer to abstract than to representational. I know that most people consider it to be the other way around, but in manga, things aren’t drawn as they really appear. For instance, if you draw a (circle) and put a (dot) in the middle, you get an (eye). In the cartoon world that symbolizes an eye, even though it doesn’t look like a real eye at all. Who in the real world has perfectly circular eyes with no eyelids or eyelashes? But in spite of this, a circle with a dot in the middle stands for an eye in manga. As I said, manga art isn’t really representational.

I expect some people are getting anxious because I haven’t mentioned the subject of my essay, Akira Toriyama, just yet. Don’t worry. Here he comes now.

What I first felt about this manga artist who made his debut with Dr. Slump was that he was determined to push onward and create manga illustrations that were abstract paintings of a sort. I’m no art critic, of course. This was just the impression of a decades-long fan of manga. I tried to express my impression that there was something different about him by saying things like, “Hey, here’s a new guy with the instincts of a designer,” or “He’s a young artist who creates real stories in manga instead of in gekiga (quite serious, theme-orientated manga).” But I still felt that in his manga, there seemed to be some other representational elements that I couldn’t describe. And aside from the style of visual expression, I’d noticed that Dr. Slump had something different and abstract about it. I’ve kept on thinking about what it is, but I still haven’t found the whole answer. But I think I may have come up with part of it.

I know my possible answer may sound irresponsible and a bit wild, and I don’t blame you if you find it unconvincing. But this is what I’ve finally concluded and I’ve put a lot of thought into it, so humor me and hear me out.

The answer—I hope nobody’s offended by this—is that the works of Akira Toriyama are a world completely lacking in representation. That is, in some kinds of illustrated worlds, an apple looks just like an apple, 3×2=6, and a smile is a smile. You move there, get a driver’s license with your address on it, and if you live there a month or a year, that’s how long it seems to be. I think that Toriyama isn’t a part of any such representational worlds. To him, the world that several billion ordinary people live in and take for granted as being representational, he sees as abstract. And conversely, the world that he believes is representational and just as he sees it when he thinks about it, most people see as abstract. I guess. In other words, Akira Toriyama is a downright strange person. The malicious might even call him a talented nut case. But there is no doubt that his unique view of the world is a delight to millions of readers, and to many of us stuck in our representational worlds, he’s a genius.

Gosh, I’m running out of space to conclude this essay. I know I should examine in detail the source of the difference between Toriyama’s representational world and the one ordinary people perceive. But, as it’s time to go, I’d just like to end by noting that it’s probably similar to the way most of us divide the fluid and abstract flow of time into discrete and digital units. I think.

Chaos: The World of Dr. Slump

by Hiroshi Takayama; Professor, Department of Humanities, Tokyo Metropolitan University

When I was reading Dr. Slump as it came out in the 70s and 80s, it seemed that everyone’s entire way of thinking toward culture and its history was “turning Dr. Slump“.

For example, everyone was reading books by a Russian social critic named Bakhtin, even people who had no relation to the field. The point that Bakhtin makes is that, no matter how much pride a man takes in his intellect, he cannot escape the need for procreation and excretion. It is the nature of the mortal flesh. During the past three centuries or so that make up the modern era, people have come to be embarrassed by these topics, trying to favor head over tail, left brain over right, but this of course is not possible. In short, to put it simply, Bakhtin says that once we understand that we are not only head but tail as well, and that we create not only great ideas but excrement, then we should be able to return once again to a more physical, sensuous culture. He draws support for this “excrementalist world view” from analyses of Rabelais, the greatest excrementalist writer, and even Dostoyevsky. Of course, Bakhtin’s books caused a scandal, but they also had an enormous impact, creating a storm of debate over whether the structure of modern society becomes repressive when rationalism is the supreme guiding principle, and whether we should acknowledge the duality and ambiguity of the intellectual and the corporeal within us all.

But we don’t need Bakhtin. The whole dispute was settled in Dr. Slump, in far plainer and simpler words. This I could see clearly, so I surreptitiously established a seminar at my university on the subject. It was a happy year for the students.

One cannot speak of heads and tails without first taking a look at King Niko-chan. This king of the universe has a butt for a head. Every time he defecates, he swoons from the smell because his nose is too close to the offending orifice. Because his spaceship was devoured by Gat-chan, the king is unable to return to his mother planet and is forced to work part time collecting human excrement; a state of state of affairs that his loyal servant finds lamentable. Is the handling of excrement really so shameful? Suppaman touches excrement to show that he is truly brave. This in spite of the fact that excrement is really just an ordinary part of everyday life. Toriyama himself appeared in Dr. Slump and held a “My Own Number One Contest” among his favorite themes to find out which of them recurred most frequently; excrement and the sun were in a dead heat for first place. A world in which the king of the universe can’t tell his butt from his brainbox, and excrement and the sun are on the same level: such a wonderfully topsy-turvy world would surely bring tears of joy to the late Dr. Bakhtin.

What is called “chaos” in the new physics is actually excrement. A world in which no simple distinctions are made between subject and object, a world which is thoroughly physical, thoroughly material. The world of Dr. Slump, where monsters and people and things are all mixed together, and language abounds in onomatopoeia–the material world of Arale-chan—is just such a world. This world makes a complete mockery of the primarily left-brained operations of intelligence. It has the power to set our minds free in the opposite direction.

There are repeated scenes in which Arale-chan squats beside the road and starts to poke at excrement. I am most happy to report that I have an acquaintance who, taking a tip from this scene sat at the side of the road with a child suffering from a nervous tic of unknown cause and, as they sat together talking and poking at some excrement with sticks, gradually came to understand what was really on the child’s mind.

Mechanisms, Beasts, and Reptiles

by Daisaburō Okumoto; critic of French literature

When I first saw Dr. Slump—as it was being published in serial form in Weekly Shonen Jump—I was immediately impressed by how beautiful the illustrations were. The mechanisms invented by the character Senbe Norimaki in Dr. Slump were drawn in delectable detail, and gave an impression of warmth. I felt that the artist’s humanity showed in the illustrations—there creations had a presence completely different from that of mere cold machines.

Some issues later, a color frontispiece came out depicting Arale-chan riding a dragon. I was surprised at how beautiful the colors were, and the skill with which the dragon was drawn. The thrill of the overall mood made me like the manga even more, and Toriyama showed a major talent for creating memorable characters.

In Dr. Slump many of the characters are animals. It is interesting to see animals mingling with ordinary people as if nothing were out of the ordinary, and, whether they are pigs or bears or wolves, their bodies and faces and the words they speak are right on the mark. So even though they are only so-called bit players, they come across as superbly-developed characters.

Then when Dragon Ball came out, reptiles came to the fore. Even though the Shenron itself is a fictional animal, it is clearly reptilian. From the texture of the mighty Cell’s skin to his facial expressions, everything about him gives the reader the immediate impression that he is a reptile. Yet on his back he has the sheathed wings of a beetle. And he undergoes insect-like metamorphoses, shedding his skin after hatching from an egg, and attaining his final form after absorbing Cyborgs 17 and 18. In this sense he is definitely an insect, which, as I am an insect lover, gives me great pleasure.

But then again, Cell shows human characteristics as well. He walks standing up and his posture and actions are those of a human. In other words, within the awesome presence of Cell lies a skillful biotechnological synthesis, or rather a harmonization, of reptile, insect, and human.

Usually, when people think up animals that are syntheses of others—as in Pegasus, the winged horse, or the griffin of Greek and other mythologies—there are obvious design flaws. Pegasus, for example, does not look like it could really fly; it lacks the wing musculature needed to raise its heavy body into the air. But there is no such feeling with Cell. Toriyama imagines exotic yet visually balanced creatures and portrays them with such superb artistic skill that, aesthetically, they are totally convincing.

In discussing the skill of Toriyama’s artistry, one cannot help but mention the intense sensation of motion and speed imparted by his battle scenes. And the thick, black delineations representing the ferocity of the explosions are incredible. It is impressive that he can create such an intense sensation of action within the boundaries of a single manga frame.

One final attraction of Toriyama’s art is the sensuality of his female characters. Not only Midori, who later becomes Senbe’s wife, but also the other superbly seductive beauties who appear from time to time. Cyborg 18 is a cool beauty and a frightening one, but you do not want her to die. With so many beautiful women, it is enough to make your head spin, even if you are not Kame Sennin.

Akira Toriyama – Artist in a Sensuous Medium

by Hideto Fuse; critical essayist

Today, there are many different media. Not only photographs, movies, and drawings, but manga, TV games, and other new media. The special characteristics of the manga, distinguishing it from all the others, is that it is the most primitive medium: in this age of high technology, manga are still drawn almost entirely by hand and printed on paper, the primitive canvas. They could as well have been printed on papyrus in ancient Egypt! Osamu Tezuka has asserted that in Japan the manga form traces its historical origins back to the Chojugiga (caricatures of birds and beasts) scrolls created during the Kamakura period (late 12th through early 14th century). Although other origins might be postulated, in any case the form is very old.

Of course, not all that is new is good. The old media have special qualities that can be found nowhere else. And that is what I would like to consider here in the brief essay.

Akira Toriyama is a manga artist, but manga are not the only medium with which he is involved. His works have been made into animated features, and introduced into electronic media as the characters in the Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior in the US) TV games. Thus, at times they appear in manga, at times his hands propagate into a wide variety of media. In this way, modern manga have transcended the bounds of the traditional manga genre and evolved into a new form suitable for the electronic age.

Here, it is important to consider the difference between electronic media and hand-drawn manga. The images in electronic media (for example, in a TV game) have a very ethereal existence. They can be easily extinguished by simply turning off a switch. And, because they exist inside a monitor, there is no tactility to them. They are insubstantial electronic ghosts. Compared to this, the manga is a much more sensuous medium. Manga are drawn with lines, lines which are the loci of a hand in motion holding a pen, and that is what marks them as sensuous. When we read a manga we turn the pages with out hands, so that the experience includes the tactile feeling of the paper and our own hands holding the book. TV images are the exact opposite. They are phantasms wholly lacking in tactility.

The society in which we live is inundated with electronic media-we live among electronic ghosts. In the mist of all this, manga are a sensuous medium. Because they are old and primitive, they have not lost that sensuousness. Of course, it is important to become familiar with the electronic realism. However, it is important that electronic media exist alongside manga and other primitive media. Their sensuous qualities lend balance to the contemporary media environment.

Akira Toriyama traverses the boundary between manga and the electronic media with ease. He swims between the print, movie screen, and TV monitor media, showing us the broader possibilities of media expression. And in any medium he chooses to work in, the remarkable qualities of his imagery come through quite strongly. What shapes his technique?

In an interview, Toriyama said: “I want to draw muscle with perfect control. For example, if I could properly capture the way it bunches up when strength is applied, ideally you could tell which character it was just from a close-up of its muscles.”

Much the same yearning drove the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo to study anatomy; through the depiction of musculature, he was even able to transcend the expression of simply physical form and express the spirit. And Michelangelo as well moved freely between the many media if his day, expressing himself not only sculpture but also in paintings but also in paintings, murals, and poetry.

You might even say that Toriyama’s sensuous portrayals of his characters are a “manga-fication” of the aesthetics of Michelangelo.

Akira Toriyama and France

by Jean-Paul Jenneguin; manga critic

In November 1989, I was a guest lecturer at the First Anglo-Saxon Comics Festival in Villeneuve d’Ascq. Villeneuve d’Ascq is a suburb of Lille, a city in the north of France. Two fans of American comics had thought the town would be the ideal location for a comics festival focusing on American and British comics, as Villeneuve is very close to Britain. The convention took place on the campus of the university of Lille Ill. It lasted three days and attracted mostly high school and university students. Near the main entrance, a huge plywood board was available for amateur artists to improvise a mural on the theme of super-heroes. It was there that, among a group of typically American characters such as Batman and Spider Man, I spotted… Son Gokuh. The little Japanese character was standing proudly side by side with his much older American brothers. I felt then that Akira Toriyama and his Dragon Ball series were on the verge of becoming very popular in France.

But let us backtrack a few more years, to the early seventies… The French started to discover Japanese animation when the works of Osamu Tezuka were shown on television. These early arrivals from Japan were Kimba the White Lion (Jungle Taitei) and Princess Knight (Ribon no Kishi). They were included in children’s programmes and very few people at the time identified these cartoons as Japanese production. Children enjoyed them and that was it. As good as they were, those cartoons did not have a big impact on the French psyche. The next Japanese cartoon to be shown on French television met a drastically different fate. In 1978, Goldorak (UFO Robot Grendizer) was aired on the children’s programme. Candy Candy was to follow the year after. These two series were immensely popular in France. That popularity would convince the people in charge to import some more cartoon series from Japan.

For a decade, Japanese animation has been an integral part of children’s programming in France. Most series have their share of loyal fans but few have a really wide appeal. Dragon Ball is one of those few, having fans of primary school, secondary school and even university age. The series’ popularity has nothing to do with it being Japanese, as this fact is by no means a novelty, and everything to do with the qualities of Akira Toriyama’s work.

The drawing of Son Gokuh at the Villeneuve d’Ascq comics festival was but one of the early manifestations of the Dragon Ball craze that was soon to sweep all of France. The series started airing in 1989 on the children’s programme Club Dorothee. Dragon Ball and its sequel, Dragon Ball Z, have become the number one favorite animated series on television. Fans of the show get increasingly younger and more numerous, if one is to judge from the crown regulars in the Parisian shops that specialize in the sale of manga and anime (Japanese animated feature) goods. Most of those fans are between twelve and eighteen years of age, although there are younger ones (many of whom may be too young to know these specialist bookshops) and some older ones (who, in that case, are very often fans of Toriyama’s complete works and not just Dragon Ball).

In 1990 the first issue of the fanzine Mangazone was published. It was the first fanzine specializing in the study of Japanese comics. The original print run was five hundred copies. However, the main feature was a dossier on Akira Toriyama, and that led to excellent sales. The publishers were forced to print five hundred more copies to satisfy the demand. The second printing is now sold out too! In January 1993, issue 4 of the fanzine Tsunami, a magazine specializing in manga and anime, also ran a feature article on Toriyama. That issue, with a print run of two thousand, sold out in two months. Such figures bear witness to the growing popularity of Toriyama among French comic readers.

In specialist comic shops that sell manga, Dragon Ball is the number one best seller. Up till the beginning of 1993, the comic was only available in its Japanese-language edition. To the fans, that did not matter! When a new issue of Dragon Ball is published in Japan, hundreds of copies are sold in France to teenagers and young adults, most of whom cannot read a word of Japanese. These fans’ impatience knows no bounds and a new issue is hardly out before they start asking for the next one. They know very well that several months go by between each new issue. Nevertheless, they seem to believe that asking for the new Dragon Ball each and every week is going to cause it to arrive more quickly. The shopkeepers at a Parisian Japanese bookshop were so fed up with the never-ending queries that they stuck a small sign in front of the counter. It reads, “The new Dragon Ball is not out yet and we don’t know when it will be released.” That sort of thing does not take place only in Paris: two days after their arrival at a Bordeaux bookshop with a manga section, all thirty copies of Dragon Ball 34 were sold out, leaving many fans empty-handed.

At the beginning of 1993, editions of Glenat finally filled an unbearable void and started translating Dragon Ball into French. One can wonder why French publishers took so long to react to the series’ popularity. There were two main reasons, one cultural, the other technical. The cultural obstacle is the bad reputation of Japanese animation in France. That reputation extends to manga. Even though Japanese cartoons are very popular among young people, adults criticize them for their violence. That reputation is due to the fact that the first series to find widespread popularity in France, Goldorak (UFO Robot Grendizer), was based on fights among giant robots, which was a totally new thing then. Lots of people thought then that all Japanese cartoons were similar to Goldorak programmes. Then again, these programmes are not aimed at them, so one should not be too surprised at this lack of interest. Nevertheless, the end result is that moving pictures from Japan have a bad reputation in France. The second obstacle to Dragon Ball‘s publication in France was purely technical. What format should be chosen? In our country, comics are published in large-size colour albums with forty-six pages of story. This format is totally inadequate for Toriyama’s work.

Glenat finally managed to overcome both obstacles. First, they published the French edition of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which went quite a ways toward giving mangas a better image. At the time, they did not know that they were to publish more mangas, but when they decided to publish Dragon Ball, the image of Japanese comics had already improved thanks to Akira. And as for the format, Glenat chose one that is nearly identical to the Japanese edition’s, making the books cheap enough for the younger fans. In comparison, French comic albums are rather expensive for younger readers on limited allowances.

Of course, Dragon Ball is even more popular in Spain. The animated series and the translated manga are both incredible hits. Still, Dragon Ball mania is quite a phenomenon in France too. Incidentally, I was told that Japanese artists are overly sensitive about the reversing process their comics have to go through when they are published in Western countries. Akira Toriyama’s drawings do not lose anything when reversed. Every artist knows that reversing a drawing is the most telltale test one can make it go through, as it instantly exposes any mistakes in anatomy and composition the artist may have made. In the case of Dragon Ball, one does not notice anything. Many French readers may not even realize that Japanese people read from right to left and that the pages had to be reversed.

As a matter of fact, Dragon Ball has now replaced Akira as the flagship title in the discovery of manga by the French. Lots of young readers are presently discovering manga in their Japanese and American versions thanks to the popularity of the animated cartoons on television. And in this field, the biggest success is no doubt Dragon Ball, which is not, in contrast to Akira, a cult comic or a cult movie but quite simply a huge popular hit.

But whence comes Dragon Ball‘s popularity in France? It is the appeal of the small guy fighting the big builles and winning against all odds. French and Belgian comics have their share of such heroes, the most popular being the Belgian Tintin, by Herge, and the French Asterix, a little Gaul fighting Roman invaders, by Rene Goscinny, and Albert Uderzo.

To children and teenagers, Son Gokuh is a power fantasy. He is a noble savage who knows nothing of civilization. Good manners, covetousness, lechery, falseness, are to him totally alien notions. However, behind his apparent weakness lie extraordinary powers of strength and resilience. He is able to beat the crap out of the big bullies who attack him. Still, he is not unbeatable, and all the better. French people do not like heroes who never lose. Superman was never very popular over here.

Early in his adventures, Son Goku spends a lot of time asking for food and, when he does start eating, stuffing himself like there is no tomorrow. To draw another comparison with Asterix, Son Goku is Obelix (as far as appetite is concerned) reduced to Asterix’s size. Of course, French people can only sympathize with a comic character who thinks eating is at least as important as finding the magic crystal balls of the dragon.

The quest for the crystal balls, the series’ perpetual McGuffin, takes Son Gokuh away from the house where he lived a hermit’s life and sends him on a journey of discovery. However, this novel about growing up takes place in Toriyama’s zany world where every character has faults that are at least as big as their virtues. Bulma is a scientific genius but also a scheming little vixen who will not hesitate to manipulate others. Oolong has the power to change shape but uses his power to satisfy his lechery. Yamtcha is strong and fearless except in front of girls. Kame Sennin, the master of tortoises, is the world’s greatest martial artist and an absolutely outrageous sex fiend ready to go to any lengths to touch a girl’s bosom or see her panties. The permanent contrast between the characters’ strengths and foibles fits the French well. They like making fun of everything. French people are nobody’s fools, they know quite well that nobody’s perfect. Media stars are politicians (even President Miterrand) are lampooned mercilessly in very popular television series where they are caricatured as puppets. These are les guignol de l’info, parodies of news programmes, and the Bebete Show, a perverse but nonetheless effective coupling of the menageries from the American Muppet Show with France’s most famous political animals.

One final appeal of the Dragon Ball universe to young people is that it does not stay the same. Son Gokuh grew up, married and had a son, Son Gohan. The series is now concerned with cosmic adventures and epic fights between modern titans. The main characters’ similarity with American superheroes increases. Childhood readers become adolescent addicts and follow the strip’s changes with enthusiasm. Adults prefer going back to Dr. Slump, Akira Toriyama’s first big series.

While it may not be as well know as Dragon Ball, the Dr. Slump series still has many fans in France. The animated version of the series was shown on French television where it was met with polite indifference. Dragon Ball was the reason why most fans discovered Dr. Slump. There is no doubt that Dr. Slump is better suited to older comic fans. Unlike Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump can be read on two levels, by children and adults, like Asterix. Toriyama does not justify his zany ideas by putting them in a proper adventure. His expression is much freer. That freedom can also be felt on the graphic level. In drawing Dr. Slump, he takes visible pleasure in graphically “quoting” many different artistic styles, especially in the chapters’ opening frontispieces. Arale, unlike Son Gokuh, is a pure chaos-maker whose only function is to ridicule all who take themselves too seriously, beginning with her maker, Senbe Norimaki. Penguin Village encapsulates Toriyama’s crazy world. It is a patchwork of a place where one can find elements taken from American and Japanese popular culture. It is also a nice place to live in, even though one runs the risk of having a doo-doo deposited on one’s head by Arale-chan.